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Dodgers Offense Realizing Importance of Situational Small Ball

A missing component from the 2018 offensive package, 2019 team is thriving on.

While it will go down largely as an unnoticed sequence of play – some who watches the Dodgers took notice. Simply, with the second run scored in the Tampa series at Tropicana Field; the Dodgers played a little small ball.

Again, it wasn’t an exciting 3 run home run that we all buy a ticket to see. But it was good baseball. Successive plate appearances from David Freese, Max Muncy, and Justin Turner set the tone in the opening game of a series in an American League park.

First, Freese doubled to lead off the top of the third inning. Then, Muncy grounded out to second base to move him over. Finally, Turner brought balance to the sequence with a sac-fly to center.

It’s not the Dodger baseball many have become accustomed to. However, it has some talking who cover the team. In this case, Pedro Moura did a segment in The Athletic on the style of play.

Moreover, the Dodgers are calling it ‘poking holes in the defense’. Max Muncy talked about moving the ball and moving runners over on a ball in play in that situation.

“That’s just playing the game,” Muncy said. “It’s something where the situation calls for it, and it’s something that we probably weren’t very good at last year. But it’s something that we’re being very good at this year.”

Equally important, manager Dave Roberts likes what he’s seeing with this poking-holes stuff.

“For me, poking holes in the offense that’s been very good, I’d like to continue to see more of that,” Roberts said. “I think that we left some guys out there over the last week. The intent is there. Obviously, the execution is a little more tough.”

Finally, the take home message for me here is while it would be nice to win every game with 3 or 4 home runs; that isn’t realistic. That isn’t the game of baseball. Truly, these are the little things that good teams do during the course of a season to win ballgames. Call it small ball – or poking holes – even a million tiny cuts. In this game, it was against a tough AL opponent to open a road series.

And the Dodgers won the game. These are the things that good teams do that you come to appreciate – because there are a lot of teams that fundamentally don’t score this run or get this sequence nine out of ten times.

Written by Clint Evans

Clint lives in Ohio, and played collegiate baseball. He loves the Dodgers due to his first memories of Chavez Ravine when he was nine years old. The voice of Vin Scully has been a staple in his life since he was a kid. No amount of baseball talk is ever enough, and he wishes the regular season was year round. He has written about baseball online since 2007.

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  1. When the Rays Choi bunted down the vacated left-side of the infield causing Hill to voice his displeasure, my question is why can’t our hitters do that Pederson,Hernandez,Taylor, Barnes when the opposition places three infielders on one side of the field?? I guess the aforementioned hitters are satisfied with their below .240 batting avgs. C’mon guys more situational hitting, put the ball in play, less striking-out/automatic-outs.

  2. Robin, Hernandez and Taylor are 2 big reasons why Dodgers lack impact hitting from the right side, and that could be part of what you’re saying as far as those 2 go, bu ya can include barnes in that package of RH bats that are not producing. Pederson? I think ya know the issue here. He will never be able to do those little things because the minute he heats up, he finds himself sitting the very next game if a LHP is going, and it’s no matter if he has a great offensive game before or not.

  3. Clint, this is all good what Dodgers are basically doing this year as opposed to 2018, but when your pitching staff, especially the BP allows 7 of the 8 runs the Rays scored on Wednesday via the HR, it won’t matter what Dodgers do. Small ball or no small ball Dodgers will be home in October with this current BP as it is

    • Well, I just like seeing it from time to time; because a lot of teams that hit for power seem to just sit around and play/wait for the three-run homer. It’s good to know that some of the veteran guys who find themselves in the middle of the order (Turner, Muncy, Freese, etc.) aren’t just always hacking for the fences but moving runners over and putting balls in play to manufacture a run. Albeit, this was just one instance.

      But with all the complaints that launch angle, guys swinging for the fences, and strikeouts are drawing; it was a refreshing sequence that definitely made me take notice.

  4. Houston beat the Dodgers in game 7 by playing small ball. Hit and run, bunting and key pitching. Dodgers has runners in scoring position in that game but they never bunted them over in order to make it a closer and possible win. You have the bats but those bats sometimes strike out losing the opportunity at hand when runners are on board.

    • Great point, Juan. We know these guys all have the driver club in their bag. Sometimes they just need to show use of the putter.

  5. With this team’s speed up and down whatever line-up Doc puts out there on any given day, this team needs to be bunting more and hitting against the shift when the situation dictates. Call it “poking the hole”, but “small-ball” has been a part of NL baseball for decades. I saw articles last season where Roberts stated that it was nice to see such offense on occasion, but the team was not built for that type of offense. I say, “BS!” Codey and Joc are coming into there own because they are no longer swinging for the fences with every AB and taking the hits the pitchers and defense gives them. There were a few situations in the 2nd Tampa Bay game (I was there.) when the score was 1-1, and it was clear the Dodgers weren’t hitting the pitching Kevin Cash was rolling out just about every inning, that “small ball” could have plated another run or two. Putting TB down would have changed the complexion and maybe the outcome of that game. The game eventually became a blow-out for TB.

    • I will take a few more steals – although to me it seems like they are running more in 2019. I’m going to look into this.

    • It didn’t help that besides Hill allowing a HR, that the relievers accounted for 7 of the 8 Ray’s runs by giving up 2 3 run bombs to put the game out of reach. If the BP is weak, no long ball or small ball will help Dodgers win more games than are lost.

  6. As I await the end of the Rain delay this Saturday evening, please allow me to reflect on the issue, situational hitting. IMHO we are doing more situational hitting than we did the past two years, and that is positive. But it does not remedy the key issue : the lack of a dependable, reliable and consistent BP. I read this morning that the Yanks are looking at Kuichel. We should be looking at Kimbrel!!! If your BP continues to waste what the starting pitcher does, then we are again behind the 8 ball. A solid BP is a great weapon, both offensively (by holding the other team), and defensively (by maintaining leads). Go Blue!!

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